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Thinking of Becoming a Vegetarian...or a Semi-Vegetarian?

Updated on September 8, 2018

Vegetarians Still Enjoy Hot Chocolate and Biscotti!

Being a vegetarian doesn't mean giving up the good stuff!
Being a vegetarian doesn't mean giving up the good stuff!

Making the Change

If you've always eaten beef, pork and poultry and have decided to make the transition to becoming a vegetarian, it's nice to see that there are a few choices to make this change a little easier. This isn't to say that these options weren't always there, but they have become increasingly available over the past few years. Even some fast food restaurants are catering to vegetarians, including a garden burger on their menus.

About seven years ago, I made the decision to become a vegetarian. Now, I can't say I'm a true vegetarian. I do eat fish and occasionally I have been known to "cheat" and have a piece of steak, but I'd say for the most part I've made the change.

It can get interesting when I tell people that, because I've encountered some who assume that all I eat is salad, which I can assure you is definitely not the case. Others will make a snide comment or two, complaining in disbelief that I don't want a steak, as if somehow my choice of food will affect our relationship or my personality. Since what other people eat doesn't affect me in the least, (unless of course, they are cannibals), I brush these kind of people off, ignore them and go about my merry way. I've never looked down upon someone who enjoys a cheeseburger or juicy steak, so I simply have to laugh that it will personally offend them or adversely affect them in some weird, mystifying way if my meal is sans meat.

When I first decided to make this change, I thought it would be difficult and that my decision wouldn't last. As it turned out, there are so many vegetarian options on the shelves today, that I hadn't really noticed much of a difference. For some, it may be difficult, especially if they are a meat and potatoes type of person, but for the most part, there are vegetarian substitutions for almost all kinds of meats.

Why Make the Switch

It's a personal choice really. Some do it because of their love for animals. Others do it for health reasons. Others simply because they like the taste of veggie burgers over traditional hamburgers. For me, it was a combination of all three. I do love animals, wanted to eat a little healthier and quite honestly, if you take a veggie burger throw on some ketchup and pickles, it doesn't taste much different, at least not to me.

Don't Forget Fruits and Vegetables!

Fruits can be a delicious snack!
Fruits can be a delicious snack!

What to Eat

I find the one thing you have to be careful with upon becoming a vegetarian (or semi-vegetarian as I am) is that you don't only eat boxed foods. A lot of them are definitely lower in calories and fat per serving, however, some have high sodium, which can often negate the purpose of eating healthier. Some alternatives are eggplant, tofu, eggs and beans. When cooking eggplant, you can make it as rich or as simple as you want. Of course, eggplant parmesan or eggplant rollatini is absolutely delicious vegetarian option, but with it, comes many calories and fat. A healthier alternative would be to add spinach to fill most of the rollatini and half the cheese that you normally would. Using a low-fat or no-fat cheese is an option as well.

For tofu, the kind that goes well with a stir-fry is the firm block of it sold at Trader Joes. It's a different texture than the tofu that you find in Miso soup, and is actually quite yummy when made with a sesame or Thai marinade. Many of my non-vegetarian friends actually enjoy this as well.

Of course, some other options are the old standbys of pizza, ravioli or pasta with garlic and oil.

As far as the boxed burgers and meatless meat sold in the market, Morningstar and Boca are the brands that I find to be the tastiest and have the most variety. For a list of their foods, click here and If using breakfast meats, I typically choose the Boca Sausage links. These are tasty and low calorie with only 40 calories per link. Morningstar vegetarian bacon is another good breakfast food to stock in your freezer. Goes perfect with an omelet or an English muffin

Morningstar original burgers only have 130 calories. But it doesn't end there, Morningstar sells vegetarian chop meat, breaded chickenless chicken and much more. As a salad topping, their veggie patties are perfect, adding a little zest to any salad.

Their vegetarian chop meat can be used in any recipe that calls for meat. Use it in enchiladas or tacos, as well as in tomato sauce. They even have veggie dogs instead of hot dogs!

One additional brand that has some wonderful options is Quorn. Take a browse on their website at . I've found their chicken is one of the best tasting on the market.

Which Supermarkets Carry Vegetarian Foods?

Fortunately, each supermarket carries a little variety of all brands. Living on the West Coast, Smiths and Whole Foods probably have the most selections. While Albertsons and Trader Joes have a few from each brand.

On the East Coast, Stop and Shop carries a fairly decent variety.

Which Restaurants Carry Veggie Burgers?

I've noticed that more and more restaurants are catering to the Vegetarian. The ones that stand out in my mind are Red Robin and The Yardhouse. Red Robin will substitute any burger (or chicken burger) option on their menu with a Boca Patty or Garden Burger. You just have to let them know. They also have a very cool website that allows you to calculate the nutrition on each entrée if you are one who counts calories. Just click here and then click on the nutrition customizer Yardhouse is located on both the East and West Coast and devotes a small section of their menu to vegetarian options.

Salads Don't Have to be Boring!

Veggie patties can be the perfect healthy alternative in a salad, in place of bacon bits or croutons!
Veggie patties can be the perfect healthy alternative in a salad, in place of bacon bits or croutons!

Well, I Don't Want to be a Vegetarian

Many of the veggie burgers are suitable for even those who have no desire to become a vegetarian. They offer a healthier alternative and are quite tasty. Next time you are in your supermarket, perhaps you'll give it a try, even just as a topping for your healthy salad! And speaking of salads, spice it up with some craisins, cranberries, olives, cucumbers, red onions,candied walnuts and feta, bleu or goat cheese. Drizzle on some rasberry dressing and it becomes a meal in itself!


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